Influences of the Religious

“The Anglican Diocese of Guyana is one of eight within the Providence of the West Indies.  Its cathedral is St. George’s Cathedral, Georgetown.  The diocese came into being on August 24, 1842, when William Austin was consecrated the first bishop.”

Wikipedia, July 5, 2017

It was at St. George’s Cathedral I was confirmed by Bishop Alan Knight (1937–1979), who later became Archbishop of the West Indies (1950–1979).  As a teenager what intrigued me most about this process was the time, I had spent studying the Gospels.  Communicants had to present the notes on the Anglican teachings to our priest.  On the day of my confirmation Archbishop Knight arrived for this ceremony at the church.  Gathered were members of families, guests, and other attendees for the Mass.  It was at this service I was initiated with prayers, hymns, laying of hands, and received Holy Communion as a full-fledged member of St. George’s.

After this rite I continued attending Sunday school classes and became a choir boy.  These were commitments that continued through my high school days.  But by the time I was at the Guyana Teachers’ College (GTC) my attendance at St. George’s came to a halt.  I still prayed for God’s guidance, but felt I wasn’t missing anything being absent from church.  However, once I emigrated to the United States to pursue studies on the mass media, I never attended another church in Oregon.

For two years I was engrossed in my studies while at the University of Oregon, Eugene.  Just before graduation as I started dating my wife Mary, I got to know her uncle Father Joe Beno, who was a Catholic priest.  Fr. Joe was a rather interesting religious personality, and became one of my role models.  Fr. Joe graduated from Scappoose High School, worked two years at Bonneville Power Administration, before serving in the U.S. Army in the European Theatre during World War ll.  When he was discharged, he enrolled at the University of Portland where he earned an undergraduate degree.  Having felt the call to a religious life he entered Mt. Angel Seminary, and in 1957 completed his studies at St. Edward’s Seminary.  On May 18, 1957, he was ordained by Archbishop Edward Howard at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  The following day he said his first Mass at St. Wenceslaus Church in Scappoose.  Fr. Joe later served the Archdiocese of Portland either as Assistant Pastor or Pastor in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of St. Joseph’s Salem, St. Mary’s Eugene, St. Michael’s Oakridge, St. Henry’s Dexter, Sacred Heart Medford, and St. Monica’s Coos Bay before retiring in 1993.

Fr. Joe had a passion for traveling, was proud of his Czech heritage, a lifelong learner, and led international pilgrimages.  He loved a party and was gifted with a positive outlook.  One of his favorite sayings even when he was retired at the Blessing House in Tigard, Oregon, was “Everything is beautiful.”  On May 6, 2017, he died peacefully.

Another priest who also made an impact on my life was Fr. Michael Ferguson.  He was an Episcopal priest at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Virginia Beach, where my wife Mary and I attend church.  After 30 years he retired as a Captain from the U.S. Naval Service.  He was married to his wife Carolyn for 57 years, and was previously a priest at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Appomattox, VA.  It wasn’t only Fr. Mike’s sermons that were enlightening, but he was a gifted administrator, who cared for his parishioners.  So, in 2016, when I was admitted to Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, suffering from a Unitary Tract Infection (UTI), he visited, prayed, and anointed me.  On June 11, 2016, Fr. Mike passed away.  His memorial service was held at Galilee Episcopal Church, Virginia Beach, and his inurnment with military honors was at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church.

Fellow parishioners of the Church of the Holy Apostles have supported and blessed our family.  They did so while serving in their various ministries.  But Mary and I did our part in social ministry, where we shopped for manna, and mailed exam boxes to college students, and provided for the homeless at our church’s shelter in the summer months.  But since early 2019, I no longer consider myself a Christian at Holy Apostles.  I discovered being a religious naturalist to be more akin to my spiritual welfare as described in the monograph, Dfurstane’s Spiritual Beliefs (2020) by Erwin K Thomas.

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